(Alta, Iowa – February 14, 2014)
Two young sisters, ages four and two, passed away Friday at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls, SD, where they had been flown after a collision in their home town of Alta, IA between a car driven by their 15-year-old brother with their mother in the front passenger’s seat and a Canadian National freight train at the non-gated crossing of South Main Street in Alta Thursday afternoon at about 4:30 P.M.
Chloe Binder, 4, and Camille Binder, 2, were both properly secured in child safety seats in the back seat of the car driven by their brother, Nathaniel Harmes, 15, of Storm Lake, IA, whom Buena Vista County Sheriff’s Major Doug Simons said was legally driving on an Iowa Learner’s Operator Permit, which specifies that a licensed adult be in the front passenger’s seat as the occupants’ mother, Heather Binder, 37, of Alta, who was also severely injured, was seated, and no charges were filed.
Ms. Binder was also airlifted to the Sioux Falls, SD hospital with her daughters, while her son was transported to Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake, where he was admitted in undisclosed condition, and was still there Saturday.
The South Main Street/CNR crossing is not protected by crossing gates, and BVSO authorities said the driver “simply didn’t see the oncoming Canadian National train as it entered the crossing.”
The sight distance triangle is extremely poor at that particular crossing as westbound trains approach from an acute angle and buildings hamper the sight line for northbound motorists. Both situations were in effect Thursday.
Funeral arrangements for the young victims are pending at the Nicklas D. Jensen Funeral Home in Alta.